Dear Hallmark, I have an idea

It's Mothers' Day tomorrow. For the past few weeks I've been seeing an explosion of sheepskin slippers, nighties, chocolates, romance novels, foot spas and other things that every mother apparently wants. In addition, there are racks and racks of cards with sentiments like, "Dear Mum, you've loved and guided me my whole life. You've made me what I am today. I can never repay you. Thank you for everything."

These are all fine sentiments and I believe it's important to tell people that you appreciate and love them. I am left to wonder, though, what happens when you don't have a great relationship with your mother. What kind of card do you send when your relationship is scarred by deep wounds that may never heal? I've searched high and low but as yet I've been unable to find a card that says, "Dear Mum, for nearly twenty years you chose not to protect me from your son's abuse and you made me believe the abuse was my fault. Now you treat me like I'm a huge disappointment to you. You've helped to make me what I am today. I can never repay you." Hmmm... can't see Hallmark going for it.

I have mixed feelings about Mothers' Day. I have plenty of friends who are mothers and I think they're doing a great job. It's not all they are but it's a large part of who they are and it's a good thing for them to know they are valued (although appreciation would be good more often than once a year). At the same time I find it an incredibly difficult day because I, and I'm sure others with stories like mine, feel a mixture of pain and guilt. I look at the Mothers' Day advertising and I feel bad that I don't have that wonderful mother-daughter relationship that is being shoved at me from all sides. Whilst it's true that my mother allowed my brother to abuse me, it's also true that she fed me and clothed me and comforted me in her own inadequate way. I doubt she'll ever understand the damage she helped to inflict upon me. Does the good outweigh the bad? Should I act as though we do have a Hallmark relationship and hope that it becomes true? Am I wrong to still remember the pain?

The reality is, there is no scale. I can't weigh up the good and the bad and see which one comes out on top. My mother, whatever her motives, contributed to some terrible pain that has left me with deep scars. I am working hard towards healing but I can't pretend the pain never happened. Equally, I can't pretend we have a great relationship now. I believe my mother loves me but I really don't think she likes me very much; and the best I can say about our relationship is that it is politely strained.

It's Mother's Day tomorrow. I don't think I'll be sending a card.


Long dark hair, blue eyes said...

I don't think anyone has the picture perfect relationship with their mother that you see in the greeting cards and glossy photos. After all we are only human and the more time you have known each other, the more time you have had to upset, hurt and irritate one another.

It is great that despite the history that you and your mum are still able to be polite to each other - so people don't even manage that - and that you are working towards healing. I hope that one day you can forgive her for her mistakes and that one day she can forgive herself. Without having a close relationship it is difficult to know how she feels about it. I wonder if the "consolation prize" has as much to do with her mistakes as with your relationship status.

Hippomanic Jen said...

I think we need to recognise that not everyone has a perfect relationship with their Mums and not try to idealise it. This is incredibly easy for someone who has a good relationship with her Mum to say - she's not perfect and there are things I'd do differently if I had kids - but I know she gave it her best shot and I think did a remarkable job.

That's not the case for everyone.

There's a beautiful line in a funeral service I found which goes something like "We realise that we are not always our best selves. Let's take the opportunity to forgive Sally for those times when he/she failed or hurt us and for those times when we hurt or failed Sally." Recognition that things aren't always perfect even though for this one day (the day of someone's funeral) that person is often idealised.

Maybe there needs to be a Mother's Day card along that line - although genuine forgiveness can be a way off - and how do you put THAT?!

Femina said...

A friend once said to me "You need to remember that forgiveness is a process, not an event." I've found that very helpful.

Copyright © 2008 - cassa verba - is proudly powered by Blogger
Smashing Magazine - Design Disease - Blog and Web - Dilectio Blogger Template